Naval strategy continues to perplex the Germans. Admiral Scheer had favoured an aggressive strategy, attempting to catch elements of Britain’s navy at a disadvantage, thereby chipping away at the enemy’s naval dominance. But at the Battle of Jutland Scheer’s fleet came worryingly close to annihilation by the superior British fleet. That has made the Germans more cautious. The fleet is the Kaiser’s pride and joy and he does not want it destroyed.
The failure of Scheer’s fleet actions have strengthened those who call for a more aggressive U-boat strategy. Germany is suffering increasing privations, thanks largely to Britain’s naval blockade. Setting the U-boats free to attack Allied shipping at will would pay the British back in their own coin, for industrial Britain needs to import food to keep its workers fed. U-boat advocates argue that the submarines would quickly bring the British to their knees, forcing them out of the war.
Chancellor Bethman Hollweg is more cautious. He knows that an aggressive U-boat campaign runs a very high likelihood of bringing the Americans into the war against Germany. But the U-boat advocates dismiss such fears. The American armed forces are currently of a minuscule size and the submarines would bring Germany victory before the Americans had a significant strength built up, or so they say.
At a conference today Bethmann Hollweg faces a relentless badgering from the U-boat advocates. He does not quite give in but he leaves the final decision to the army’s commanders. But with Hindenburg and Ludendorff only just appointed, the army is in no state to make a decision on this important question. For now the U-boats will remain on the leash.
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Wikipedia)